Bookstore to Box Office Fall 2002 Literary Adaptations

By Abramson, Marla; Langer, Adam | Book, September-October 2002 | Go to article overview

Bookstore to Box Office Fall 2002 Literary Adaptations


Abramson, Marla, Langer, Adam, Book


YOU COULD BE FORGIVEN FOR LOOKING AT THE FALL SEASON OF LITERARY ADAPTATIONS AND THINKING IT'S STILL 2001. Once again, all eyes are on J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth and J.K. Rowling's Hogwarts, as the second installments of the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series are set to debut. And several of last year's most anticipated book-based films--Herbert Asbury's Gangs of New York, Michael Cunningham's The Hours, Anita Shreve's The Weight of Water and Susan Orlean's Adaptation--were delayed until this year. In the next few months, there will be dozens of literary works hitting the screens. Some of the movies we're most excited about have little to do with the books on which they are based. And some of the most slavish adaptations seem the least promising. Here are the ones we' re most interested in--and what their authors and creators think about taking them from the bookstore to the box office.

SEPTEMBER

FOUR FEATHERS

Based on A.E.W. Mason's 1902 epic adventure story, starring Heath Ledger, Wes Bentley, Djimon Hounsou and Kate Hudson. Directed by Shekhar Kapur. PLOT Shamed British officer sets out to prove himself. NOTABLE CHANGES Pro-colonial story now an anti-colonial statement. PREVIOUS MASON ADAPTATIONS The Four Feathers (1915, 1921, 1929, 1939, 1955, 1977). KAPUR ON WHY HE WAS ATTRACTED TO THIS STORY "It talks about things that people don't talk about these days--friendship and betrayal and love. Also, since I was a kid, I wanted to make an adventure story with a big battle scene in it." ON THE MESSAGE "[Unlike the book and the other films,] it's not about a man who went out to redeem himself. I don't think redemption in the end mattered. It's a man going on a journey of self-discovery." THE UPSHOT Works better as an adventure story than as a political statement.

THE EMPEROR'S CLUB

Based on the title story in Ethan Canin's 1994 The Palace Thief, starring Kevin Kline. Directed by Michael Hoffman. PLOT A prep school teacher confronts a relationship with a former student. NOTABLE CHANGES Gay subtext and original title removed. PREVIOUS CANIN ADAPTATIONS Blue River (made-for-TV, 1995). CANIN'S FAVORITE LINE IN THE BOOK "This is a story without surprises." CANIN ON WHY THAT LINE WAS REMOVED "[The producers] were afraid that if the audience heard the words `This is a story without surprises,' they would get up and walk out of the theater. They underestimate the audience's ability to understand irony." THE UPSHOT Dead Poets Society meets Wonder Boys meets The Big Chill.

TRAPPED

Based on Greg Iles' 2000 thriller, 24 Hours, starring Charlize Theron and Kevin Bacon. Directed by Luis Mandoki. PLOT Two parents face their daughter's kidnappers. NOTABLE CHANGES Daughter has asthma, not juvenile diabetes. Set in Seattle, not the South. PREVIOUS ILES ADAPTATIONS None. ILES' NEXT PROJECT A modern adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray set in Hollywood. "That's one of the most modern and relevant novels that exists. People are going to flip over this." THE UPSHOT The book isn't quite Wilde, but great movies don't always come from great books.

OCTOBER

RED DRAGON

Based on Thomas Harris' 1981 novel, starring Anthony Hopkins and Ralph Fiennes. Directed by Brett Ratner. PLOT Imprisoned Hannibal Lecter advises a former FBI agent, Will Graham, in the pursuit of another killer in this prequel. NOTABLE CHANGES Hannibal's capture is given significant play. An older Hopkins plays a younger Lecter. PREVIOUS HARRIS ADAPTATIONS Black Sunday (1977), Manhunter (1986),The Silence of the Lambs (1990, Hannibal (2001). THE UPSHOT The end of the line for Hannibal.

WHITE OLEANDER

Based on Janet Fitch's 1999 debut novel, starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Renee Zellweger and Noah Wyle. Directed by Peter Kosminsky. PLOT With her mother in jail, Astrid survives a series of foster homes. …

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